How to Apply for a PhD

So you want a PhD. Determining whether that is the right path for you or not is a discussion for another (maybe future) post. But now that you have decided you want a PhD, how do you apply into a PhD program? Though some of the steps are similar to college and graduate applications, many aspects and steps of the application process are also quite different! I’ll share the steps I took to get into a PhD program.
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Here’s a summary of the steps, with in-depth explanations soon after:

  1. Research departments and professors, and the type of research they do
  2. Contact departments/professors you are potentially interested in
  3. Volunteer to do research with the department/professor
  4. Check for universities’ and department-specific application requirements, and work on fulfilling them
  5. Apply! Seriously, just do it.
  6. Last but not least, surrender!

Feel free to share what steps you took, or your stories about getting into college or a PhD program in the comments!

Disclaimer: The process and steps I list here are ones I took to get accepted into a university in the U.S. Talking to PhD students from other countries, it seems that the process and steps may be somewhat similar for other countries as well, but there may be differences.

Continue reading “How to Apply for a PhD”

PhD, Planners

Planning the Long-Term PhD Process

In my previous post, I talked about how The Happy Planner helps me plan my day-to-day PhD work. However, the PhD process is quite a long one, and requires looking ahead at the next few months for papers and deadlines, and the next few years to meet and complete the PhD milestones on time.

Submitting papers to conferences depends on whether the research or paper you are working on fits the theme or subject of the conference, and whether you can complete the research and paper in time for the deadlines. At the beginning of the year, and every month or so, I look for when the deadlines of conferences that might relate to my research are. Not all conferences provide details at the beginning of the year; they become available as the organizers have made plans and make them available. Hence, I have to check intermittently. I put these deadlines in my monthly calendar, which is pocket sized to carry with me everywhere. I also track meetings, appointments, class times, and travels in my monthly calendar.

Previously, I would write estimates and plans of my PhD as outlines or timelines. Below is one example I did for the Spring 2017 semester. Note, I try to only be working on 2 large projects at a time, as I found I can’t effectively work on more than 2. Additionally, working on 2 projects simultaneously gives me a way to be productive when I’m bored or tired of working on one project.


Then I found the following blog post titled “Project Planning in my Bullet Journal”. I used to do something similar to that at work, but in Excel. It worked really well, as I was able to schedule certain tasks and projects regularly, thereby reducing the overall stress and workload on my team. The same day, my sister happened to bring me a graph paper composition book. All the signs compelled me to track my PhD process in a similar way! Here’s how it looks:


It has already been helpful! As soon as I finished 2 papers I was rigorously working on for the past 2 months, I woke up the next morning thinking for the first time in a long time, “What should I do today?” I pulled out my current PhD plan, and started to plan out which tasks I wanted to tackle this week.

Here are some updated pictures on the Happy Planner, since the last post!

Note: I recently created an Instagram account, and will be sharing my planner spreads there. Feel free to follow me!

PhD, Planner Accessories, Planners, Student

Planning my PhD with The Happy Planner(R)

I have used quite a few planners through college and graduate school, but none of the systems I used previously were effective for the mid- to end stages of my PhD degree. The types of tasks and deadlines I needed to track are very different from those I had while working on my Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, and early PhD program. While before I had small and defined tasks, and specific deadlines, now I have research and paper ideas, various conferences to consider (I apply to conferences only if my research topic matches the theme of the conference, and if I have something I can write a paper on in time for the deadlines), and teacher assistant tasks. Some of these tasks can be broken down into smaller, list-able tasks. But sometimes, I don’t have enough information or direction to break down a large task/project into smaller tasks – mostly the case for research and paper ideas.

In March 2017, I found and bought The Happy Planner 24 Month Creative Planner Kit for a discounted price (about $30). The deal was too good to turn away from. Only $30 for the following items:

  • 2 Sticker packs, totaling of 12 Sticker Sheets
  • Three Colorful Pens (black, blue, pink)
  • Five Rolls of Washi Tape
  • Two List Pads
  • Elastic Band with Pen Loop
  • Two Pocket Folders
  • 20 Sheets of Note Paper
  • 20 Sheets of Grid Paper
  • 24 months of Monthly and Weekly Planning Pages

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Planner Accessories, Planners, Student

Planners that I used through College and Grad School

Different planners were helpful to me at different phases of college and graduate school, depending on the types of tasks and assignments I had. Here, I’ll share the various types of planner systems I used since college. Unfortunately, I did not keep all my planners, nor did I take pictures of them all, but will include the pictures I have.

Freshman Year

To keep track of my schedule which was filled  with classes, meetings, and extracurricular activities, I bought a weekly appointment planner. Each class and type of meetings or activity was color-coded with colored pencils. I used separate binders per class to store syllabi, assignments, and notes. Every morning, I would review my class binders for what is due when, then prioritize and write my daily to-do’s on either separate pieces of paper or my portable whiteboard.

Sophomore and Junior Years

For the next 2 years in college, I used the planners provided by my university. The monthly views stored assignment due dates, exams, class schedule, meetings, and extracurricular activities. I used the blank lines in the weekly views to write assignments and other to-do’s for each day. Like Freshman year, I prioritized and wrote my daily to-do’s on either separate pieces of paper or my portable whiteboard every morning.




Continue reading “Planners that I used through College and Grad School”